Take a walk in a wintry wonderland
Monday, January 20, 2014 2:31 AM
For most people a walk is no big deal... during most times of the year, that is. In winter the walks get a little brisker. During the crazy-cold polar vortex of the recent past, a walk outside seemed more like a really bad idea, as well as a possible flirtation with hypothermia.
Lisa Brainard walking along the snowy trail in Preston Jan. 12, one instance leading her to the conclusion that she needs ski goggles to keep the area around her eyes protected.
In past years I would most likely have embraced winter weather, possibly even the frigid polar vortex. As outdoorsy people say, "There is no bad weather - only bad clothing choices."
That comment gets into the heart of attempting to stay comfortable in winter's extreme conditions: wearing clothes in layers. (More on that later.)
This is my first winter since the accident and stroke I had in September of 2012. What's that? You are thinking I seem to have missed a winter in there?
I spent the winter of 2012-13 starting my recovery at Park Lane Estates in Preston. I didn't have to worry about whether it had snowed a foot, if an ice storm had glazed everything, or if it was minus-20 outside with a wind chill of minus-50. I saw it all outside the windows, but didn't have to directly deal with it much.
This winter of 2013-14 is my first on my own. Those last three words mean a huge, important difference. Now I do worry about the weather and how it relates to seemingly mundane tasks like getting the mail or taking out the trash.
An acquaintance I've made through all my medical conversations of this past year told me (at least this is how I remember it), "I'd say this is your first winter, since it's the first winter you're on your own. And make no mistake, that first winter is hell." (She spoke from the experience of her own recovery.)
I certainly would expect it and trust me, the words ring true many days. Most of the time I just stay inside.
But as the polar vortex broke and daytime temps were above 35 - and even the winds that seemed straight off a Dakota prairie took a break - I knew it was time to get outside for a walk on the in-town trail. After all, I was going stir crazy from being inside for so long
Now we'll get back to winter clothing. First I layered up. I'd gotten some bright green snow pants. (Hey, it's the only color they had and it's my favorite color anyway. As an added bonus the pants even came in a short inseam, although you'd never guess it by seeing them on me.)
The pants are insulated and waterproof. But even so, I put a thin layer of wicking long johns underneath. (Since it was above 35, this was basically overkill. But the polar vortex had left me very fearful of the cold, even when the forecast promised far less extreme conditions.)
I put on a wicking turtleneck with a fleece vest over it. My overcoat is a breathable, waterproof shell. It has a fleece liner that zips in, but I didn't need that with the rest of my gear.
I wore thin gloves with mittens along to wear over them if I seemed to be getting chilled. I had waterproof winter boots on over wicking socks, Finally, I had on a fleece-lined, knit cap. Yes, I was ready.
One thing I've quickly discovered about winter is that moving the rollator walker around is a bit trickier. If on natural terrain, like my yard where there's no sidewalk and just a shoveled path, each little frozen bump or hole brings me to a temporary stop. Once I pick the walker up and move it a little ahead or to the side, I'm back in action. It's just a little weird for a moment.
So, all that said, I took a walk on the in-town Trout Trail in Preston, from my place to the west bridge. My tight, shaky left leg, arm and hand made things interesting. It was hard to keep my grasp on the walker's handles, but I managed.
I didn't know if the trail would be snowy, icy or possibly even have stray mud on it in spots. But it was fine. The city of Preston clears it. (The rest of the DNR trails in the area are left snow-covered and some are groomed for cross-country skiing)
The South Branch Root River by trailside was interesting and serene. Most was cool, blue-tinged ice with a little open, flowing water. Snow on the ice showed animal tracks, although obviously I couldn't get close enough for a good look at them. However, leafless trees did allow good river views. Even the bark on some of the trees has intriguing, swirled patterns.
All in all, it was a nice walk. I'd like to take more of them, if any intending-to-form polar vortex might care to cooperate or, better yet, just remain notable by its absence.
One thing I do need yet is better facial protection. I have a balaclava - think of it as a tight fitted, thin, full-face ski mask - and also a lower-half-of-the-face, somewhat piggy-nosed ski-type mask, but neither gets in close to my left eye to provide much-needed protection. This area damaged in my accident is prone to get tight and sting from the cold. I've been warned to monitor it closely by doctors.
So I'm thinking of getting ski goggles to help cover my eyes and the skin to the edge of the balaclava, hoping that a good pair also might be fog-free.
But then I start to think getting ski goggles now would mean the winter would turn unseasonably warm and spring would come early. Isn't that how it always goes?
Wait a minute. Hmmm... I think I have every reason in the world to get ski goggles now! (You can thank me later - wink.)